Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Minoru J. Shibata Interview
Narrator: Minoru J. Shibata
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: West Los Angeles, California
Date: December 4, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-sminoru-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

KL: So we're in tape two of an interview with Jim Shibata on December 4, 2013. And we were talking about your dad's work as a fisherman, and I wonder if your mom had any work for income on Terminal Island?

MS: Yes, the womenfolks in Terminal Island usually went to work at the canneries, and when they went to work is when they heard the whistle of the canneries. But when they were ready after the fishing boats would come with their haul, and unload it to the cannery, so the fishes had to be processed, so they needed workers. So when the whistle blew, that's when the womenfolks went to work at the canneries processing those fishes.

KL: Was it most every day? How often?

MS: Yes. Well, those boats that used to go out on a daily basis, they would come back with the haul, so the cannery had to process those when they came in. So it wasn't a continuous working at the cannery, only when the fishes came in, they had something to process. [Laughs]

KL: What time of day was that? It sounds like...

MS: It was during the day, it wasn't in the... it could be early in the morning, but it took place all during the day. It didn't usually run into the night. By nighttime all the boats were already back.

KL: Did she talk ever or did you ever observe what the atmosphere was like where she worked?

MS: No, I've seen the movies of it, it's cutting up the fish and gutting up the fish and ready to be canned, it's that type of work. So they would have a little bucket with tools that they need, and they would carry that work and do whatever at the cannery and come back after the work was done.

KL: Do you have a sense if it was pretty communal, if there were lots of... how many women would respond when the whistle would go?

MS: I think most every family's mothers and wives were involved in that, unless they had other things that they had to do. And I'm sure that they weren't required, I mean, it was voluntary, it's voluntary work.

KL: Do you have a sense for what she thought of her salary or her supervision or the work itself, the tasks?

MS: I haven't heard any big complaints or anything, so I assume it was all right.

KL: What was her personality? What was important to her or what did she...

MS: I believe in Japan, after high school or during high school she went through what is called a finishing school. So she was sort of refined in that way. And whether the work was a downgrade or not, I don't know, but at least I haven't heard her complaining about it.

KL: But she kept that sort of refinement when you knew her?

MS: Well, yeah, in her manners and in her relationship with other people.

KL: What about your dad? What was his personality?

MS: He was... I don't know what to say besides very efficient at whatever he did. Oh, by the way, I didn't mention that his older brother, my uncle, was living with us in Terminal Island in one of the rooms that we rented. And he came to this country by himself, left his family in Japan for the reason of, for employment in this country. So he used to send back the supporting funds to support his family in Japan.

KL: Like he had a wife and children?

MS: Wife and children. Let's see, he had... well, I can't remember how many children he had. They're supposed to be my cousins but... two or three.

KL: Is this Koichiro?

MS: Yes, Koichiro.

KL: So he left Utah and joined you in Terminal Island?

MS: No. Let's see... yeah, I don't know whether he was ever in Utah. But all I know is from the time that he started living with us in Terminal Island... unfortunately, he was not able to return to Japan until World War II ended. So for about thirty years he lived in this country by himself and supported his family in Japan.

KL: Do you think his plan was to return to Japan to live?

MS: I think so, yes. I mean, after all, that's where his family was. And I don't know, I guess he didn't have the opportunity to go back in between.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.